we don’t like you anymore.

And sure enough, the mail came.

It was all by itself, in a clear tape case – one of the Maxell XL-IIS tapes that sounded better – and cost more – than any other blank cassette tape, a sure sign that something important was on the tape.  On each side was a piece of adhesive tape.  Written on one side was “Ditch Croaker – WOMB Recordings.”  On the other side, it said “Footstone – WOMB Recordings.”

Ray had finished up our previous phone conversation by dropping a bombshell of bad news on me – that Melting Hopefuls would be playing a CMJ Music Marathon showcase for another label.  Given that the showcase application I had completed for Dromedary featured Melting Hopefuls, Footstone, and cuppa joe, I felt reasonably confident that we would not be having a showcase in 1993.  Footstone and cuppa joe just didn’t have the notoriety that Melting Hopefuls did, and if Melting Hopefuls were playing on a bill with two even more popular bands (which they were) in Catherine and Big Hat, there was just no way CMJ would be including Footstone and cuppa joe in the seminar.

Ray softened the blow – he knew I was upset – by mailing me the rough mixes of the Ditch Croaker and Footstone recordings that he had completed.  We had planned to release 7″s from both bands after the first of the year.

The tape was rewound to the Ditch Croaker side, so I decided to start there.  In our meeting in Hoboken, Floyd had given me a cassette tape of one song – “Lotus Eater” – that I thought was utterly fantastic.  So I looked forward to hearing the rest of the songs.

The first song on the tape, “Ticker Type,” gave me the exact same reaction as “Lotus Eater” did.  It was filled with fat hooks and an aggressive tension that built from the beginning of the song, ebbed during a quiet middle eight passage, only to pick back up with a loud instrumental crescendo that closed out the song with a bang.  I loved it.  I couldn’t even get to the second song on the tape without listening to it a second time. Here it is, right from that same tape that Ray sent me.

You can hear from the recording I’ve posted here that I pretty much wore out that tape. I listened to it hundreds of times.

I was ecstatic. The prospect of following the Melting Hopefuls/cuppa joe 7″s with a Ditch Croaker single that contained “Ticker Type” and “Lotus Eater” was amazing to me. Additionally, releasing such a great record simultaneously with the Footstone record would surely help raise Footstone’s profile – Ray wasn’t high on the Footstone songs, but I was sure that the Ditch Croaker record would give Footstone a boost.

I played the rest of the tape with Sandy, in the living room of our apartment. We sat there with a couple of beers, grinning like idiots at the prospect of being able to release something this good. “This will be the best record we’ve ever done,” she said.

“I know,” I agreed. “I can’t decide which song I like better.”

Sandy actually liked two of the other songs on the tape – “Skull Cap” and “Videohead” – better than “Ticker Type” and “Lotus Eater.” She even suggested that we try and dig up the cash for a CD. But after the extraordinary expense of Elizabeth I was in no position to even think about a CD.

We listened to the Ditch Croaker side a couple of times, and then Sandy asked “Are you going to do it?”

“Do what?” I asked.

“Put on the other side.” The other side contained the Footstone mixes that would be our 7″.

Aside from the sixteen mix debacle that was “Air Bag,” I hadn’t heard a single Footstone song with the band as a four-piece.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  Ralph had sent me rehearsal tapes, but as I’ve mentioned in the past, I didn’t like to listen to them.  They sounded tinny and thin, and they hurt my brain.  But besides those tapes, I hadn’t heard the band in a while.  They went into limbo after Guy’s last performance at Spam Jam, while they learned new songs, figured out how to play as a four-piece, and while Ralph ostensibly learned how to play the guitar.

So this tape was the first time I’d be hearing any well-recorded Footstone songs without Guy.  I was afraid, particularly because I was committed to putting out a single from this band without actually hearing them first.

And my fear was well-founded. The first song was “Mountain Man,” which would have been a decent song if it had been about a minute and a half shorter.  It was heavier than your normal Footstone song (at least the Footstone songs with Guy on guitar).  The problem was that the song was written as if Guy was still in the band – so the opening to the song was four measures too long as the guitars repeated over and over, with no solo being played over it.  There was a lengthy instrumental passage in the middle of the song, and another that closed the song, where a guitar solo belonged – but no solo.

On top of that, Dave’s backing vocals were, in many places, barely audible.  

The second song was “Belly.”  Same deal.  Way too long, way too repetitive, way too many instrumental passages where a guitar solo belonged.  It was as if the band didn’t know what to do with the songs where the guitar solo belonged – I would just as soon have seen the band cut those instrumental passages out entirely.  Mostly, I don’t like guitar solos in my pop songs.

On top of that, I knew that Ralph had a penchant for writing songs about people he knew.  And “Belly” had this lyric:

“Me and your friends, today We just took a simple survey:

We don’t like you anymore.

We don’t like you.”

The song went on and on like that: We don’t like you, we don’t like you, we don’t like you. “You don’t think he wrote this about me, do you?” I asked Sandy.

“Nooooooo,” she said.  “I think it’s about Belly, the band.”  Tonya Donnelly’s band Belly was tearing up alt-rock radio at this point.

“But he says ‘No one wants to see your ugly face here.’  He says ‘On your way and shut the door – don’t mean to rub salt in your sore, but we don’t like you anymore.’  He could be talking about me.  And the song sucks; if he’s going to write an insulting song about me, don’t you think he could at least write a good one?”

“More to the point,” Sandy said, “What are we going to do about this?  We’re supposed to put this out.”

We invited Rich over to hear it.

“You can’t put this out,” he said.

“Dude, they’re paying for it,” I explained.  “How can I tell them I won’t put out a record I’m not even paying for?”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said.  “You’re putting out Melting Hopefuls – two great songs.  Then, you’re putting out cuppa joe – three great songs.  They, you’re putting out Ditch Croaker – two more great songs.  You can’t follow seven great songs up with something like this.”

I sat there in silence.  

I invited Frank over.  The four of us sat there in the living room and listened to it, over and over, trying to find something redeeming about it.  Ultimately, we all agreed: the songs had decent hooks and good musicianship, but they were way too long, way too monotonous, and way too repetitive.  I was going to have to refuse it.

And in my mind, nothing could be more insulting than having to reject a band that’s paying to press the record. These guys had become my friends.  Particularly Ralph and Mark, who went out with us a lot, introduced us to a lot of their friends, took us places, and were two of the funniest, most enjoyable people I had ever met.  And I was going to have to completely insult them.  Completely.

I sat there in the living room, and suddenly realized that I had gotten completely and utterly drunk.  I was actually drinking my face off, hoping to dull this awful feeling I had.

What a downer – going from the high of listening to “Ticker Type” to thinking that one of your favorite people wrote an awful song about you, and that it was so bad you would have to tell him it sucked and couldn’t come out on your label, even if he paid for it.

I also made up my mind that I wasn’t going to tell Ray.  I would come up with some other reason why the record wasn’t going to come out – I refused to embarrass Footstone like that.

Here, by the way, is that first mix of “Belly.”

~ by Al on February 21, 2009.

4 Responses to “we don’t like you anymore.”

  1. Wow, between that and Airblag…phew, it stinks in here.

    • This is the worst part of writing this blog for me, the next 5 or 6 entries. Without giving too much away, Footstone got so good, so fast, that it’s not even funny. But I’m telling the story and it has warts, you know?

  2. Holy @#%!. Foru and a half minutes? I can’t even stay awake that long anymore.

  3. […] We Don’t Like You Anymore. Ray sends me a cassette tape that has really good Ditch Croaker music on one side, and really bad […]

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